Hurrah! Drape the bunting, uncork the champers, and pull the string on an old party popper.
Today marks the 300th article I’ve written for you here at The Huddersfield Examiner.
It’s been a terrific pleasure writing for you over the years, and I hope you’ve enjoyed reading these recipes and occasionally trying them out.
As such an auspicious occasion demands, this week requires something a little special.
We enter the ziggurat, we ascend Everest, we launch for the moon. Today, we’re baking a soufflé! Stop! Don’t run away!
Much bunkum about the technical aspects is talked about soufflés, and it’s this that tends to put off the amateur cook.
Years of Fanny Craddock shouting at us about how they’re fiendishly difficult to make has put many a home cook off even entertaining the idea of setting to, but it’s largely nonsense.
Soufflés are easily made and, providing you don’t faff about too much, yield great results every time. It’s all about having all the equipment and ingredients ready before you start, and paying attention as you go.
And the resulting dish is a wonderful thing to eat, be it savoury or sweet: a light and fluffy cloud of intense flavour, but with a little hint of stodginess to make it more than a cheese-flavoured cloud.
This solid heart to the texture of a soufflé is created by making a thick white sauce, into which we fold our flavourings, before lightening the whole thing with stiff-peaked whisked egg whites.
As the soufflé cooks, the egg expands, and the soufflé is forced to rise upwards majestically from its ramekin. It will stay risen for a good few minutes, giving you time to get them to the table for the mandatory ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’.
You can use almost any savoury ingredient in there, providing it’s not too heavy, but simple flavours seem to work best, from the tang of Cheddar cheese and tarragon to the scented silkiness of a smoked haddock soufflé.
As we’re bang in the middle of wild garlic season, I had to make the most of my favourite wild leaves, with their deep emerald colour and light garlic flavour.
As the flavour dissipates with over-cooking, a soufflé is a brilliant way of showcasing the herb, and it goes well with many ingredients from cheese to poultry and, in this case, fish. I picked up some lovely fresh salmon from the fishmonger, and the dish made itself.
If you can’t find wild garlic, simply use some chopped fresh spinach, and pop a little grated garlic in the poaching milk. Also, don’t despair if your soufflé wilts before getting it to the table – it will taste just as good in a slightly deflated state – but won’t win any competitions.
This isn’t what home cooking’s about. What we want is a good, tasty dish that people will devour with pleasure. Any leftover soufflés can also be used for making the modern-day twicebaked variant, which is a great one for dinner parties where you have more on your mind.
Bake the soufflés the day before, and loosen them from their ramekins before letting them cool. To serve, them, turn each one out into a shallow baking dish, and pour over a little cream and a dusting of finely-grated cheese – Parmesan or something more substantial.
Bake them until they are golden and bubbly; they will re-inflate quite a bit, and make for a wonderfully rich and creamy introduction to a meal, or as a stand-alone supper dish.
The thing to remember is not to be afraid, and get stuck in.
Read the recipe through before getting going. Because if you don’t attempt a soufflé once or twice, you’re really missing out on one of cookery’s real treats.
For the soufflé:
1 small onion, sliced110g butter
100g plain flour
8 large free-range eggs,
180g fresh salmon, cut into 1cm
2 tbsp chopped wild garlic leaves
2 tbsp grated Reggiano
A little S&P
6 soufflé ramekins or similar oven-proof pots
a knob of softened butter
2-3 tbsp grated Reggiano
Get all the ingredients laid out before you start, and clear the decks.
Lightly butter the inside of your ramekins, then scatter in the grated Parmesan, rolling it around to completely cover the buttered inner surface.
This helps the soufflé ‘climb’ up the ramekins.
Tip out any excess and continue until all ramekins have been lined.
Set the oven to 200ºC / Gas 6 and pop in a baking sheet capable of holding the soufflés in one layer.
Bring the milk to the boil in a small pan together with the sliced onion.
Turn off the heat and let it sit and infuse for a few minutes. Melt the butter in a small, heavy-based saucepan, then whisk in the flour and stir well for 2 or 3 minutes; this allows the raw floury flavour to dissipate.
Whisk in the warm milk, gradually until you have a smooth, thick sauce. Let it come to a bubbling boil, then lower the heat and let the mixture simmer for at least 5 minutes, whisking frequently, until it is thick and smooth.
Remove from the heat, allow to cool for a few minutes, then stir or whisk in the egg yolks, one at a time.
Stir in the salmon, the Parmesan, the chopped wild garlic and a little seasoning. In a large bowl whisk the egg whites until they hold a good firm peak. Fold them gently into the sauce, then carefully spoon into the lined ramekins.
It works better if you gently stir in half of the egg white first, making sure it’s completely incorporated, then fold the other half in keeping as much air in the mixture as possible.
Smooth the top lightly, then bake the soufflés for 20-30 minutes, undisturbed for the first 15 minutes or so.
The cooked soufflés should have a nice sexy wobble, and the crust a nice pale golden colour.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately, with a nice crisp salad.